Misinformation about hemp is a costly mistake, as one hemp company unfortunately discovered.
As of last week, Big Sky Scientific LLC, a hemp company based in Aurora, Colorado, is suing Idaho State Police (ISP) and Ada County after the two were at odds over whether or not the product they were transporting through Idaho was pot. Days prior, truck driver Denis V. Palamarchuk, 36, was apprehended while transporting 6,701 pounds of industrial hemp. During the arrest and seizure of the product, which occurred after Palamarchuk stopped at the East Boise Port of Entry, the driver attempted to explain to doubting ISP officers that the substance he carried was not pot, but rather hemp. In fact, a spokesperson told the Idaho Statesman that the officer on the scene "knows what marijuana smells like" and that "the odor was very easily detectable by him, even with the trailer's doors closed."
The officer's nasal investigation, a field drug test that showed a "presumptive positive for THC," and a positive identification from a drug-sniffing dog all overpowered Palamarchuk's insistence. The shipment was then taken for more definitive testing, but not after Palamarchuk was arrested, charged with a felony, and released on a $100,000 bond.
Palamarchuk and Big Sky Scientific LLC were correct; their product was perfectly legal. In fact, hemp was legalized nationwide following the passage of the most recent U.S. farm bill in December. But ISP officers made a common mistake and failed to properly distinguish two similar yet different products. In fact, it's misinformation like this and hemp's proximity to pot that led to national confusion over hemp for so long. As previously explained, hemp is pot's nonintoxicating cousin. Its components have many functions––they can be used as fibers for clothing and rope, seeds for edible products, and a naturally occuring cannabidiol (CBD), which is credited with reducing chronic pain and intense childhood epilepsy syndromes. Hemp is so ingrained in American history that George Washington, Founding Father and first president, grew the crop on his land.
Activists like Jason Amatucci of the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition had hoped that the farm bill would help to minimize confusion during run-ins with law enforcement. Amatucci previously told Reason, "What the 2018 farm bill will do is legitimize the industry to states, banks, insurance companies, Wall Street, and investors. It will help to clarify any legal gray areas that federal and state agencies have towards hemp and their end consumer products."
So while the ISP officer on the scene may have relied on their nose to make an arrest, the differences between hemp and pot are significant enough that they should have done more to confirm the legitimacy of their charge.